-- Joe Magid
Congressman Jim Gerlach has for years presented him self as a moderate when it comes to issues of reproductive rights. He sports a 70% rating from the National Right to Life Committee while his NARAL ranking has fallen from a quite tepid 10% to a frigid 0% over the course of his Congressional career. Gerlach has consistently voted for restricting abortion rights but also for federal funding for family planning lending a substantive basis for his claims of moderation, at least until now.
This past Friday Gerlach voted for Amendment 11 to HR 1, the omnibus spending bill to which Republicans have been attaching multiple non-budget related amendments, an amendment sponsored by Rep. Mike Pence, R-Ind, that will bar Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X funds.
Title X dates back to 1970 and provides $327 million annually towards family planning and reproductive healthcare services for poor women. While it is already the case that, by law, Title X funds can be spent only on family planning and contraception and not on abortion, Pence and others contend that this money allows Planned Parenthood to shift other monies to fund abortions and since money is money it amounts to federal funding of abortion. In other words, since money is 100% fungible, any federal money that goes to any entity that performs abortion is federal money that goes to abortions. Pence has introduced a separate bill taking this position to its logical conclusion seeking to bar any organization that performs abortion from receiving Title X funds. (Meanwhile, the GOP has apparently floated a budget proposal that eliminates Title X funding.)
When asked how Gerlach could justify voting for the Pence Amendment given his long-standing claims of support for funding for family planning and reproductive healthcare, staff in his Washington office said the Congressman "is concerned about the closeness of Planned Parenthood's political arm with it's non-profit operations."
If accurate, this reasoning further expands the fungibility of money argument whereby any non-profit, 501(c)3 entity with an affiliated but separate 501(c)4 advocacy entity whose political advocacy is objectionable to the Party in power would be subject to being banned from federal funding. So just to be clear, in an attempt to hold onto his moderate moniker when it comes to women's reproductive rights, Congressman Gerlach seems to want to open a Pandora's box around federal funding for any non-profit affiliated with an advocacy entity.
Meanwhile, the Gerlach staffer added that despite his vote to deny Planned Parenthood Title X funding, and since Planned Parenthood is the only provider of reproductive healthcare services in large sections of the country effectively denying reproductive healthcare services to poor women in these places, he supports continued funding for Title X.
Where Gerlach stands on HR 3 which would end the federal tax deductibility of premiums for any health insurance plan that covers abortion, which if passed would very likely ensure that no employer provided insurance coverage would include abortion services, is as of yet unknown. The Philadelphia Jewish Voice looks forward to finding out.